ZF Friedrichshafen AG (meaning Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen Aktiengesellschaft which was until 1992 the name of the company) is a leading supplier of automobile transmissions. The company was founded in 1915 in Friedrichshafen, Germany to produce gears for zeppelins and other airships but moved into the automobile market by 1918. The company helped produce the airship Hindenburg as well as truck parts for Hitler's war effort. ZF is also known for designing and, amongst other firms, manufacturing the transmissions for most German Panzers of World War II. ZF's most famous World War II-era transmissions are SSG 76 and 77 Aphon synchromesh transmissions used on tanks in the 20 tonne range. War-time transmission production also icluded the Panther tank's AK 7-200 synchromesh. After the war, the company was allowed to resume business producing automobile transmissions and other parts.
In the 1960s, the company began supplying transmissions to the major German automakers, including DKW and BMW, as well as Peugeot and Alfa Romeo. A popular automatic transmission (the 3 HP 20) was introduced in 1969 which was designed to be an easy swap with the company's manual transmissions. In 1972, the company acquired Borg-Warner, a major competitor. Worldwide subsidiaries and factories were opened in the 1970s, and the company moved into India, South Korea, and became a major supplier to Ford in the 1980s. The company expanded into China in the 1990s.
The company is also known for its truck and bus automatic transmissions. ZF gearboxes are the among the most commonly used in buses. Among the most popular products for buses is the Ecomat series automatic transmission, introduced in 1980.
With the rise in popularity of the semi-automatic transmission in trucks and buses, ZF has also introduced one of its own, named the ASTronic.
Lemförder, ZF Sachs, and Boge are all divisions of ZF specializing in original equipment and after-market solutions for the auto industry.